GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WZZM) - Sports bars do a brisk business during the NCAA tournament, and unfortunately, so do police.
Police agencies statewide made 2,271 drunken driving arrests during last year's NCAA tournament period, according to Michigan State Police. Of those, nearly 30 percent fell into the "super drunk'' category, meaning they had a blood alcohol level more than twice the legal limit.
Drunken driving patrols are being stepped up again this year with the help of federal traffic safety funds. Extra patrols are planned in 26 Michigan counties, including Allegan, Kalamazoo, Kent and Muskegon counties.
A total of 144 police agencies are participating in the campaign, which began the weekend before St. Patrick's Day and runs through April 7.
A five-year review of crash data indicates both alcohol use and a lack of seatbelts plays a significant role in fatal and serious injury crashes in March and early April.
The Michigan Office of Highway Safety Planning is coordinating the effort, which includes partnering with The Rapid bus system in Grand Rapids on a public awareness campaign encouraging revelers to catch a sober ride.
"If alcohol is part of the festivities, make sure you designate a sober driver to get you home safely,'' said OHSP Director Michael L. Prince. "Make the smart choice and catch a sober ride home.''
Police agencies which received funding for the 2013 March Madness enforcement campaign accounted for 22 percent of drunken driving arrests statewide.
In addition to getting six points on your driver's license, people convicted of drunken driving face stiff financial penalties. Fines and court costs often exceed $2,700 – and that does not include the cost of an attorney or a hike in car insurance rates.
First-time offenders also face up to 93 days in jail and cannot drive for 30 days. After 30 days, a restricted license is issued for five months. Courts can also order you to perform up to 180 hours of community service.